Austin County Jurors Reject Death Penalty

On July 11, 2013, an Austin County jury determined that Maron Thomas should spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2010 capital murders of his brother and sister, Cedric Thomas and Kiana Phearse, in Buckhorn.  The District Attorney’s office had sought the death penalty for Thomas, but the jury decided that there was mitigating evidence in his case that warranted a life sentence.

This was the first of three indictments against Thomas, who pled not guilty by reason of insanity.  He has also been charged with killing his mother and stepfather, Debra and George Washington, and his two-year old niece, Khalilah Chambers-Massey.  Thomas’ case represents the first time in 25 years that the Austin County District Attorney sought the death penalty.  Read more about the trial at The Sealy News.

The jury’s decision is the second rejection of a death sentence in Texas this year.  In February, jurors in Brazos County deliberated for 21 hours before rejecting the death penalty for Stanley Wayne Robertson, who had been convicted of the 2010 murder of Annie Mae Toliver. Read our coverage of that case here.

In 2012, jurors rejected the death penalty during the punishment phase in four capital murder trials, resulting in sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. In each case, the jury determined that the defendant did not pose a future danger, the first question on the jury instructions. Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 20 capital murder trials. For a more in-depth look at the death penalty in Texas, including its geographical isolation and disproportionate impact , see our 2012 Report.